Comparing the Effects of High and Low Learning Pathway Instructional Approaches on Vocabulary Mastery of Middle School At-Risk Learners

By Sharon Kossack.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Within content area text, knowledge of key subject area vocabulary plays a critical factor in comprehension. Yet, content area vocabulary mastery eludes students because the words themselves are unfamiliar and their practice opportunities are limited to the subject area classroom.
Traditional subject area classrooms still focus on lists of key terms within a unit, requiring students to look the words up in a dictionary or glossary, write the definition and perhaps a sentence, all of which can be copied from such references. This rote memory task is contrary to what is being learned about how children learn. In terms of multiple intelligences, this task involves only one pathway to the brain, notably verbal/linguistic (words and dictionary use). Current brain theory emphasizes the need for learner engagement, involvement via multiple channels of learning, for learners to gain understanding.
This study contrasts the effects on middle school student vocabulary performance following traditional dictionary use, which involves only one pathway to learning, with a nontraditional approach called visual definitions in which students work together (interpersonal) to infer (logical/mathematical) meaning from unknown words (verbal/linguistic) using embedded images (visual/spatial) that suggest their definition.
Further study needs to be made on the degree of correspondence of student learning preferences and the available pathways afforded various concept development strategies to determine whether such performance improvement is due to learning channels or novelty of instructional techniques. Knowledge of this could help educators consider learning preference of academically struggling students when planning their compensatory interventions.

Keywords: Learning Objectives, Multiple Intelligences, Learning Preferences, Adolescent Learners, Middle School, Instructional Adjustment, Vocabulary Study, Howard Gardner, Learning Pathways, Academically At-Risk Learners

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 14, Issue 6, pp.199-206. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 858.371KB).

Dr. Sharon Kossack

Professor, College of Education, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Florida International University, Miami, Florida, USA

Professor of Reading; Directs at-risk-student-embedded in-school Professional Development Academies; stateside coordinator of a literacy and special education program (Every Child Counts) in Abaco, Bahamas. Reviewer for International Reading Association publications, AERA, and American Reading Forum. Former column editor for Journal of Reading.

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